For those employees who aren’t interested in management but who have talent and leadership skills, consider a “guru” track.
Popularized in Silicon Valley a few years ago, the guru track enables good employees to advance and embrace new challenges without taking on a management position.
Workers in the guru track get many of the same benefits as a manager. For instance, they have the opportunity to take on new projects, assume more responsibility, and receive the pay increases. This track holds a prestigious status within the company culture, and it focuses on nurturing talent, skills, and expertise.
To create a successful guru track, consider the following:
Have a formal, clearly articulated plan. Create a track that closely resembles your organization’s traditional career ladder, but with no managerial responsibilities/authority. Outline how the track will work. Set up clear goals and objectives, and clarify the difference between the guru and management tracks. For instance, promotions in a specialized track such as this generally are based not on team performance but on individual impact and personal growth in terms of skills sets and competencies. However, gurus and managers are rewarded in the same way—with new job titles, salary increases, training/development opportunities, and other perks.
Discuss the track in detail with candidates before they start on the track. Make sure they are prepared to take on the responsibilities and challenges involved. If they are disinterested or hesitant, they may not be ready for this move. In this case, discuss with them what would increase their confidence and/or interest.
The ultimate goal of a guru track is to keep good people—those who are ambitious but don’t necessarily want to be managers—engaged, interested, and challenged. This opportunity enables them to be change-agents, innovators, and visionaries without having to take on responsibilities they don’t want. It can open a new road where employees previously saw a dead end. And it’s important to make it clear to these individuals that they can pursue management roles later if they change their minds.